Midway through January Liam suddenly developed a fascination with babies. “Baby!” he says in a very pleased voice when he sees a photo in a book, packaging featuring a baby, or a real baby. He calls all children under a certain size or age babies, and we haven’t yet managed to teach him that toddlers are kids or children. They’re all “baby!”. Shopping is a lot of fun because of this. It’s also entertaining because of the chipper “Hello!” and “Bye bye!” he directs to various other shoppers and staff as he passes them.
This month Liam learned about the moon. He asked about it while driving home from daycare one day, when the first sliver of the crescent was low in the western sky. He already knew ‘stars’, so I had to explain that it wasn’t a star. Now he looks for the moon every day. I love to hear him say “moon” (followed by pointing up), and sometimes “Lady” (also followed by pointing up, unless he’s talking about one of his trains!), and “stars” (insert pointing up here, too). After he learned the word ‘moon’ he kept pointing up during the day and saying “moon!”, so we tried for two weeks to get him to understand that the sun is what we see in the sky during the day. For a while it felt like a scene out of The Taming of the Shrew: “Moon!” “No, it’s the sun. ” “Moon!” “No, Liam, really, it’s the sun.” “MOON!” Now he says ‘sun’ properly when he looks up during the day, although he’s having great difficulty understanding that the moon is in a different place at a different time every night. And I can completely understand that; the “inconstant moon” must be a huge challenge for toddlers who are struggling with object permanence. I have no idea what we’ll do when he sees the moon in the daytime sky for the first time.
The skills he has picked up over this past month astonish me. Toddlers learn so quickly. Liam has finally learned how to blow kisses: before he would bring his hand up to cover his mouth and kiss his palm, but now he understands that the moving of the hand away is just as important. And during his last cold, he learned how to blow his nose instead of just submitting to having it wiped. (Anyone who has parented a toddler knows that this is a big thing. His caregiver called the next time she took him to ask excitedly, “When did he learn to blow his nose?”) Now when he sneezes he says “nose” and points to the box of tissues. Halfway through January he started walking backwards, just wandering down the hall or through the kitchen in reverse. At first you could see him concentrating to make sure he didn’t fall over, but now he just starts walking and off he goes, casually watching where he’s been. A week of touching his wrist and saying “bee!” with a cheerful smile had everyone confused, until one day we realised that any small speck (such as pepper or a freckle) is ‘bee’, which means a bug of some kind, we think. Equally, small round pieces of food like grapes or corn are ‘peas’. He names different parts of the body, points to pictures on the wall and describes various things in them, looks at new things and relates them to things he already knows. It’s incredible to watch him develop like this.
At the beginning of February I gave him his very first doll. He’s crazy about The Little Mermaid in any form, so when I found a soft Ariel doll with a pleasant face I picked her up. Liam absolutely loves her. He tried to get her out of her box like crazy in the store and while I was getting him out of his coat at home, but when I finally undid all the threads and wires and held her out, he stood shyly on the other side of the room and just looked at her for a while. I cuddled her and stroked her hair, then asked him if he would like to hug her. He nodded and sidled over, touched her hair and laid his cheek gently against her. Then he grabbed her by the foot and off they went. Liam made her a bed from her box right away, fed her crackers, and stroked her hair. He demanded to sleep with her for his nap, and sat with her on my lap for his pre-nap stories, then proceeded to take her with him in the car to pick up HRH that afternoon. That day he added her to the menagerie of companions in the turtle tent with him. Like BunBun and his little wooden Thomas the Tank Engine, ‘Mermy’ is now a member of the family. (We have managed to keep her out of the bath so far, however, unlike Thomas.)
The greatest at-home invention this past month is the turtle tent. The turtle tent is made by draping the end of the sea turtle fabric over the back of the reclining chair in the living room, and anchoring the other end in the bookcases behind it. He brings his stuffed Thomas pillow into it, books, his cup, and usually a small bowl of orange sections or crackers and spends ages in it, playing and giggling and ducking in and out, usually with a parent in tow.
When I work in the kitchen he demands to see what’s going on, so I started pulling a chair over for him to stand on. We made Rice Krispie squares last week, which fascinated him so much that he thrust both hands into the warm sticky mess as I was scraping it into the pan. He wasn’t as enchanted when it didn’t just shake off, although he agreed that eating it off his hands tasted good. He likes to help mix things.
One day while Liam was singing to himself HRH listened with a focused look on his face, then leaned in and said, “Liam, are you singing the alphabet song?” Liam just grinned. So HRH started singing it, and Liam grinned even more. In the car later that day it happened again. He loves that he can start singing, and we can join in. To calm him down in the car the other afternoon I sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to him, followed by the alphabet song, and “Baa Baa Black Sheep”, with several variations on harmony. I stopped because I was tired, and I was sitting at a red light when from the back seat I heard “twinkle twinkle”, followed by a pause, then “twinkle twinkle” again. I looked in the mirror to see him grinning at me, singing his version of the song. So we sang “twinkle twinkle”-pause-“twinkle twinkle”-pause together all the rest of the way home.
About a month ago I saw him singing to himself in the car seat and putting the thumb and forefinger of each hand together, then putting his hands in the air. The second time I saw it something clicked. “Liam, are you singing Itsy Bitsy Spider?” Grin, grin. So I sang it and did the hand motions for him. Sometimes he’d put his hands in the air; sometimes he’d put the fingers together. Sometimes he’d throw in a “la la”. The odd thing? We hadn’t sung it to him yet, nor had his caregiver, so to see him doing the hand motions was truly freaky. We can only imagine that Grandma must have done it for him one day.
New words this month include mermaid, broom, castle, cantaloupe, flag, blue, table, butter, and people. He now attempts Pasley’s name, calling her “Lablie”. He also says “purple”, thanks to Jan. And speaking of Jan, when we give him toast with a bit of jam on it he says “Nm-mmm,” and we say, “It’s jam.” “Jan!” he says, pointing up at the framed photo of t!, Jan, HRH, and I with Death and Taxes from the wedding last May. New foods include parsnips (with which he was so enamoured that he picked all of them out of his stew and left the carrots!), and Minigo fruit-flavoured yoghurts (which, curiously enough, don’t make me gag like regular yoghurt does). I laugh whenever I hear him say “tea!” in a perky voice followed by reaching for a teacup, either real or from his toy tea set.
His love affair with books proceeds apace. He’s really good with paper pages, but we still prefer to give him board books because he does get upset when he tears a page. Only a week after the last monthly update he developed a violent affection for Lost and Found, and now every single page must be read before naps and bed. Somehow, penguins have become became ‘cookie’ in Liam-speak. (Black and white police cars are also ‘cookie’, which means penguin. He is an odd child. No, he’s never been given a black and white cookie.) I love to see him sitting next to the bookcase, pulling another down as he finishes paging through one, slowly building a pile of books around him like a nest. This month we finally went to Ikea to pick up a set of doors for the bookcase in which we store our DVDs, because no matter how we wedged them in he’d get them out and open them up to play with the discs. We also installed security latches for the doors. He was very unimpressed when he came home that afternoon and not only couldn’t see the DVDs, but couldn’t open the doors either.
We are out of fish again. The aquarium currently houses a healthy school of bubbles instead.